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Cayman Turtle Centre was pleased to assist George Glen, a PhD student from the University of Florida, with his valuable research into how turtles age. He spent five days gathering data at the Turtle Centre with help from senior members of the turtle research and conservation team. Explaining the nature of his research, he said: “I am interested to find out if sea turtles undergo some form of senescence and I am at the moment looking at a captive population here at the Cayman Turtle Centre, but I hope to extrapolate my findings to a wild population. Senescence is essentially the irreversible decline of fitness with age. A perfect example of this would be mammals, for example, humans go through a menopause and we know that other big megafauna also go through this, too.”
“In the wild, we don’t really know how long they live for,” Mr. Glen continued. “Estimates are based on population models and based on tag returns; but it is potentially from sixty to eighty years old. We have bone data, so we can cut a bone in half and count the year-rings, but that’s a sampling bias, because we are only seeing the turtles that die, that we get, and we are not seeing the ones that die that we don’t see,” he said. “The data that I am being provided (from the Turtle Centre) is reproductive data. I am looking at the number of eggs a turtle lays over her lifetime, and I am looking to see if that declines with age.